If I were a billionaire, my personal extravaganza would be to have my own art museum – an impressive collection of paintings and sculpture, ceramics and decorative objects from other cultures. Art makes my heart tremble. Art is history. Art is life. Art is (hard) work. Art is inspiration and dreams. Every time I go on a trip, I first look up if there is any art museum to visit. I have never missed a great art gallery and even in Bucharest I often spend my weekends in a beautiful company surrounded (for a few hours) by masterpieces of notorious Romanian painters.
On my latest trip to Vienna dedicated to seeing the Christmas Markets I also made (a lot of) time for a romantic tour at the museums. Usually the best art museums are located in mesmerizing buildings with incredible history so whether you love art or not, you should pay them a visit in order to understand the past of the city and country you’re in. I am almost sure that even the most skeptical ones will be impressed by the beauty inside and will fall in love in a minute. Just wait and see!
I don’t want to bore you with many details and I will let the photos speak for themselves and them you tell me if I am right or wrong.
1. Kunsthistorisches Museum
One of the world’s foremost fine arts museums, the KHM enriches any Vienna itinerary and is a must no matter how short the visit. Plan your visit carefully so you can see its most important collections. The Art History Museum was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family. With its vast array of eminent works and the largest Bruegel collection in the world, it is considered one of the most eminent museums worldwide. Numerous major art works of European art history, among them Raphael’s “Madonna in the Meadow,” Vermeer’s “The Allegory of Painting,” the Infanta paintings by Velazquez, masterworks by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian and Tintoretto are housed in the paintings gallery. I just love places that make you realize how tiny you are and more important how big and full of treasures this world is. Being in the stupendous rooms with walls covered in huge paintings reminded me of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Another overwhelming experience is The Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection which contains fascinating treasures from mysterious cultures long past. Also, temporary collections are very impressive and I was lucky enough to visit the Rubens “The power of transformation”. The KHM offers many surprises: the building is wonderful with elegant interiors, great chambers, a lovely café and velvet sofas where you can rest (and take photos). Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the souvenir shop and buy some artsy things as memory.
Adults – 15,00 Euro
2. Belvedere Museum
It was built between the years 1714 and 1723 as the summer residence for the important general, Prince Eugene of Savoy. This Baroque ensemble is a unique “total work of art” combining masterpieces of architecture, sculpture, painting craftsmanship and Baroque garden design. One of Europe’s most stunning Baroque landmarks, this ensemble – comprising the Upper and Lower Belvedere and an extensive garden – is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the Belvedere houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, complemented by the work of international artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Max Beckmann. The highlight is the collection of paintings by Klimt with the iconic Kiss. Visiting the Upper Belvedere was a dream came true! Seeing the Klimt gallery and wondering the charming floors inside was a delightful activity for a very cold November day. But there’s much more to discover in the palace galleries. I was bewitched from the very first room I entered: painted in pastel colors and full of pretty sculptures, then the paintings, the Marble room and the ceremonial room which will take your breath away (Need I say that you can have your wedding there?). Following the signs from room to room you will finally reach the most famous gallery…where you’ll find the Klimt portraits – ten of them. Belvedere has the world’s biggest collection of Klimt oil paintings (Judith and The Kiss are the main stars). And then there is The Kiss itself, standing in isolation on a stark, black wall, pulling your eyes around its component parts. If Austria ever runs up too much public debt, this one painting alone might clear it for them. Another beautiful and funny discovery is the series of busts by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt from his Character heads series.
Upper Belvedere (Gustav Klimt) – Adults – 15,00 Euro
Lower Belvedere – Adults – 13,00 Euro
Belvedere ticket (Upper & Lower Belvedere) – Adults – 20,00 Euro
21er Haus – Adults – 7,00 Euro
3. Albertina Museum
Located in the proximity of the State Opera in Vienna, just across the street from the famous Café Mozart, The Albertina is an urban escape full of extraordinary paintings. The museum hosts the largest and most valuable graphical collections in the world. The collection, which was established in 1776 by Duke Albert of Saxony-Teschen, a son-in-law of Empress Maria Theresia, comprises 60,000 drawings and approximately 1 million old master prints, as well as more modern graphic works, photographs and architectural drawings. Apart from the graphics collection the museum has recently acquired on permanent loan two significant collections of Impressionist and early 20th-century art, some of which will be on permanent display. Famous pieces such as Dürer’s “Hands folded in prayer”, Rubens’ studies of children and masterpieces by Schiele, Cézanne, Klimt, Kokoschka, Picasso and Rauschenberg can be admired inside the building. The museum also houses temporary exhibitions. During our stay in Vienna we were lucky to witness the work of art by Raphael. The painter stands alongside Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo as one of art history’s most important masters. As a painter and architect, working in Florence and Rome and for popes and princes, Raphael was a true universal genius of the High Renaissance who constantly sought to strike a balance between naturalist imitation and idealisation. The Albertina is mounting the first exhibition to present works solely by Raphael in Austria (the exhibitin will last until January 7th 2018). Around 130 drawing and 17 paintings serve to represent all of the artist’s important projects: from his early Umbrian period to his years in Florence (1504/1505–1508) and on to his Roman period, impressive works from all of his creative periods are included.
But Albertina is so much more than just a fascinating art museum. Serving for almost 100 years the residence of Habsburg archdukes and archduchesses, the 20 sumptuously decorated and restored Habsburg State Rooms sweep visitors away into the magnificent world of classicism with their precious wall coverings, chandeliers, fireplaces and stoves and exquisite furniture. My favorites were the Hall of the Muses and the Wedgwood Cabinet. It is good to know that you can photograph anything inside so you can leave the place with plenty of elegant memories from all the pretty rooms colored in shining yellow, green and turquoise that will transport you back to the time of their inhabitants.
Adults – 12,90 Euro
4. Hofburg Palace
The former imperial palace (the principal imperial winter residence) is located in the centre of Vienna, facing the Heldenplatz (Heroes Square). Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the palace has been the seat of power of the Habsburg dynasty rulers. The Hofburg has been expanded over the centuries to include various residences (the Amalienburg and the Albertina), the imperial chapel, the imperial library, the treasury, the Burgtheater, the Spanish Riding School and the imperial mews. The palace is one of the biggest palace complexes in the world with the oldest parts from the 13th century.
Today Hofburg is the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria and the home of numerous museums with outstanding collections and a congress center. We have visited here the Sisi Museum, Imperial Apartments and the Imperial Silver Collection.
The Sisi Museum is a must-see in Vienna offering a very delightful journey throughout the life of the beautiful empress from the coronation to the tragic death in Geneva. From the beginning, the museum compares the myth and the facts so each visitor can understand the true personality of the so often misunderstood Empress. Among the highlights are numerous personal objects once owned by Elisabeth as well as her most famous portraits. Elisabeth had indeed a tumultuous life, always being the center of attention (without enjoy that attention so much). The exhibition presents almost 300 personal objects in order to show her rebellion against court ceremony, her escape into a beauty cult, her obsession with being slim, athletic performance, and effusive poetry. From the carefree time as a young girl in Bavaria to the surprising engagement with the Austrian emperor to her assassination, the museum shows the restless life of the legendary empress.
The Imperial Apartments. Visitors can explore the private and official chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth inside Vienna’s Imperial Palace. The tour leads through 24 rooms, from the imperial staircase, through audience rooms and studies, to the living rooms and bedrooms of their majesties. The rooms are desigend in the Rococo style, with rich stucco work and valuable tapestries from Brussels, chandeliers made from Bohemian crystal and tiled stoves made from porcelain. The highlights of the tour are the dressing-cum-exercise room where Sisi spent most of her time and the bathroom of the empress. Her day began here at six o’clock in the morning with the daily hairdressing ritual. The exercise equipment installed here, such as the wall bars, high bar and rings in the door frame, are still retained. Take my advice and listen to the audio guides because they offer so many information and in the end you will fully understand the kind of life they had, their personalities and other details.
The Imperial Silver Collection in the Imperial Palace provides insights into the court dining culture of the former imperial dynasty. Valuable porcelain and crystal glasses, magnificent centerpieces and services, as well as simple kitchenware made from copper can be seen here. The most impressive exhibit is the 30 meter-long “Milan centerpiece”, which was created for the coronation of Emperor Ferdinand I as king of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in 1838.
Adults – 13,90 Euro (audio guide included)*
*the ticket is valid for all 3 museums mentioned above
5. State Hall, National Library of Austria Library
If you ever dreamed about going inside a fairytale library, than you should go and visit the State Hall in Vienna. This baroque jewel is home to over 200,000 tomes and the intricately decorated dome, the marble statues and numerous frescos provide an imperial flair as well. Once you step inside, magic will unleash and in that moment you will realize that the library doors are a getaway to anywhere, Paradise included.
Built in the 18th century as part of the former Court Library, the State Hall is a breathtaking 80 meters long and 20 meters high room that will take your breath away in a second. Four magnificent Venetian globes, each with a diameter of over one meter, provide the finishing touch to the heart of the Austrian National Library. The entire interior is gorgeous, but the star is definitely the famous ceiling fresco which depicts the apotheosis, the “deification” of Emperor Charles VI. In the middle is represented Charles VI in all his glory, with pyramid and laurel wreath in his hands, while below that is a golden medallion with a portrait of the emperor supported by Apollo and Hercules; beneath that and around the sides are numerous other symbols of the magnificence of the House of Habsburg.
With its historical holdings, the Austrian National Library is one of the most important libraries in the world. Worthy of particular mention here is the library of Prince Eugene in the middle oval, containing 15,000 volumes bound in red, blue and yellow Morocco leather.
Adults – 7 Euro
6. The Ankeruhr Clock
This typical Art Nouveau construction was built between 1911 and 1917 after the plans of the painter Franz von Matsch. You can find it in the oldest square of Vienna ‘Hoher Markt’ (only iy you look up!), forming a bridge between two parts of the Anker Insurance Company’s building. The clock itself is adorned with mosaic ornaments and it aims to commemorate Vienna’s past and the transitory state of live and being. The clock shows the time by historical figures that move across the clock’s face. Every hour a different historical figure passes by. Each of the twelve figures has a roman number on their head indicating the hour, while the minutes are shown by an arrow above the figures that point to the minutes on the clock face. As a recommendation, it is best to see this clock at noon as all twelve figures are paraded, accompanied by music from various eras. You will see that the tourist spectacle is a special kind of Viennese High Noon.
Open for everybody, no admission fee required
Thank you for following my footsteps in the search of the perfect and artistic urban getaway! I hope you enjoyed this fascinating journey in Vienna and I wish you all a magical and inspiring winter! Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!
Golden Klimt style kisses,